Train snow London
Snow covers the tracks as tube trains are parked in London, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Snow and ice have swept across parts of the UK, with cold wintry conditions set to continue for days. Image Credit: AP

London: Britain’s National Grid on Monday issued a notification for Drax Group to prepare two coal units that have been on winter standby as a cold snap gripped the country.

The grid operator issued start-up notices for two 570 MW coal units at Drax’s power station in Yorkshire, the notices on Elexon’s website said.

Elexon is a wholly-owned but operationally independent subsidiary of National Grid Energy System Operator (NGESO).

The notification is not a confirmation that these units would be used on Monday, but they are available if required, the grid operator said.

“The public should continue to use energy as normal,” it added.

National Grid signed contracts in August with Drax Group and EDF to extend the life of four coal-fired power units, saying the contracts are intended to be used when all commercial options have been exhausted within the balancing mechanism.

Meanwhile, the UK’s nuclear fleet was running at its full available capacity for the first time this winter as the Hartlepool 1 reactor returned after a planned outage at the weekend, EDF Energy said.

The UK Health Security Agency on Friday issued a weather alert due to freezing conditions, with the Met Office warning the cold snap could persist until Dec. 16.

Heavy snowfall blanketed parts of Britain on Monday, disrupting airports, train networks and roads in London.

Britain’s National Grid said it does not expect disruption to customer energy supplies despite cold weather driving up demand, the executive director of its Electricity System Operator said.

“We have enough supplies secured through the rest of the day that we can manage that and ensure that there is no disruption to customer supplies,” Fintan Slye told BBC Radio.

Elswewhere in Europe, concerns over French electricity demand were eased on Monday after nuclear power supply reached higher levels over the weekend, hydro power ramped up, and strong imports were recorded from neighboring countries.

Temperatures fell below zero degrees Celsius in the Paris region in the early hours of Monday, causing demand to rise above 80 gigawatts (GW) during peak morning hours - the first time it has reached that level this winter.

Finland is preparing for the possibility of power cuts during cold snaps this winter, having stopped electricity imports from Russia over the Ukraine attack and facing persistent technical problems at its new domestic nuclear power plant.